Chuck E. Cheese Agrees to Self-Regulate Kids’ Marketing
Markey Takes Aim at Dannon, Yum! Brands, Nestlé
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/11/2007 1:27:00 PM
Richard Frank, chairman of CEC Entertainment, owner of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, agreed to take steps to limit marketing to kids, the latest in a series of companies to take such steps.
That commitment came in a letter to House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who asked food marketers and media outlets to trim the marketing fat as a way to help fight childhood obesity, which is fast becoming the nation's top health risk.
In his letter, Frank said the company would not engage in product placement; would reduce the use of third-party licensed characters in ads; and would limit the showing of food products (pizza is a staple of the chain) to under 10% of total airtime and not promote food in the audio portion of the ads (the restaurants are geared to birthday parties and feature a variety of games both video and nonvideo).
The company also pledged to promote "physical activity and healthy socialization."
The move follows a similar pledge by ConAgra last week, another company contacted by Markey.
Markey praised those companies but prodded others he contacted to get the lead out. "“I applaud Chuck E. Cheese and ConAgra for taking a step in the right direction," he said in a statement. “Though Dannon, Yum! Brands and Nestlé have been slow to act, I hope they have a ‘Quik’ change of heart for the sake of America’s children.”
Markey pointed out in July that 11 major food companies and restaurants, as part of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, told the Council of Better Business Bureaus they would no longer use licensed characters to market snack foods and sweets to kids and limit TV ads to kids to ones for foods meeting specific nutritional guidelines.
That came just before an industry-government task force was scheduled to present recommendations to Congress on voluntary ways to reduce marketing of snack foods to kids, but that report was put off and remains unreleased, in part because children's activists, who are also part of the group, don't think its recommendations go far enough, according to a source familiar with negotiations.
Dannon, Nestle and Yum! were not among the companies to take the CBBB pledge, with Markey reading that -- along with their responses to his letter, which were released Thursday -- as a sign that they were "unwilling to restrict marketing to kids."
Dannon said in its letter that it had not yet decided whether to sign on to the CBBB effort, but it did say that it had contributed to a nutrition-education program and one year ago had cut the sugar content of its Danimals yogurt cups by 25%.
Nestlé also cited nutrition education and, coincidentally, a 25% cut in the sugar content of one of its products, NesQuick. The company said it already abided by the majority of those standards already.
Yum! Brands -- which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC -- said its products are primarily marketed to adults and families, and that if anything changes, it will talk with the Better Business Bureau about complying. It also pointed out that it had taken the trans fat out of KFC and Taco Bell "core" menu items.
My family and I went out for takeout tonight. We would have gone to KFC or Pizza Hut except you pulled the advertising from Dog. Many years ago I learned that Domino Pizza (my favorite at the time) was contributing to right to lifers. I have never bought another Domino Pizza since. Please reconsider your decision. Dog is good. Censorship is not.
I am 70 and more opinionated now then ever before
P J Ebert - 11/4/2007 2:06:00 AM EST
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